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Four ways you can attack witness credibility

On Behalf of | Dec 31, 2021 | Criminal Law

In all criminal prosecutions, attorneys for the state do their best to persuade the judge and jury that their witness’s testimony should be given more weight than the defense’s witnesses, and therefore conviction is appropriate. Sure, in many cases there’s physical evidence supporting the prosecution’s case, but in far too many instances it’s really a he-said, she-said situation.

What can you do here to protect your interests and your future under these circumstances? One option you may have at your disposal is attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses so that the judge and jury find their testimony less reliable. After all, this could lead to an acquittal and the reclaiming of your future.

So how do you go about addressing witness credibility? There are several ways. Let’s look at four of the most effective tactics that you can use in your case:

  1. Impeachment by prior inconsistent statements: If you can show that a witness’s trial testimony contradicts prior statements that he or she has made, then you give an immediate indication that the witness can’t be trusted to tell the truth. One of the best ways to point out prior inconsistent statements is to conduct depositions, which allow you to lock in a witness’s testimony well before trial. Since this is sworn testimony and you’ll have a transcript of it, it’ll be easier for you to identify and point out any inconsistencies at trial.
  2. Bias: Witnesses are just people, and as such they have biases. They may be prejudiced against certain races or classes, or they may have built-in thoughts about people who act or treat others in a certain way. These biases can affect their testimony and thus the way that the judge and jury perceive you. So, do your homework on the prosecution’s witnesses and be prepared to highlight any biases that may affect how their testimony is given.
  3. Motivation: Some witnesses are motivated to testify against you. This is most often seen when someone else is alleged to have been involved in the crime in question. In these instances, the prosecution may offer a plea bargain to one of the individuals in exchange for testimony against you. This, obviously, is a motivating factor for the individual to testify against you, which means that they may give statements that aren’t true just so that they can avoid the harshest penalties.
  4. Criminal history: Not every aspect of a witness’s criminal history is admissible, but typically offenses involving honesty are. Therefore, a conviction for fraud or forgery can be used to completely devastate a witness’s credibility. So, again, researching the prosecution’s witnesses can be crucial to developing the strong criminal defense that you need.

Be prepared to defend your witnesses

Just remember that while you try to attack the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses, the prosecution is going to do the same thing to your witnesses. Therefore, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about your witnesses and their history before putting them on your witness list.

Utilize the defense tactics that are right for you

There are a lot of legal strategies that you might be able to use to your advantage. While attacking witness credibility is certainly one of them, so, too, is evidence suppression, vigorous objecting, and relying on case law to support the position that the prosecution has simply failed to meet its burden. We know that these legal nuances can seem confusing and stressful when you’re overwhelmed at the mere thought of conviction, but that’s why experienced and successful law firms like ours stand ready to help you fight for your freedom and your future.